It’s one week left to the departure let’s then sum up what we have done so far. It started from the idea, quite long ago I have heard about the Round the World ticket – multi-stop route planned by travel agencies or by oneself. Later on somebody in my life decided to go for such kind of a trip. I was thinking then that my poor Eurotrip plans are nothing compare to that, but though as well that £1000 are not impossible to collect (average price of an average RTW ticket). As I thought it wasn’t so hard to do this while working part time as a waitress and saving money from two scholarships. Finally magically I have collected money I needed and the time came to choose and buy the ticket. Tickets unfortunately constantly change so the route we were tempting to choose was no longer available, however we found a different one interesting as well. Travel Nation agency offered a route London – Tokyo (self transfer to Osaka) Osaka – Auckland – Hong Kong – London for £975. China, UAE, some Asian countries, New Zealand and Australia are rather popular destinations on such trips, but Japan? Wow! That convinced me, if only we would have Australia included in our route that would be just perfect. In that case we called Travel Nation and asked politely – £140 and additional plane from Auckland to Sydney and back is ours, not bad! Hmm, how about travelling around China a bit more, maybe return from any other city like Beijing or Shanghai? That’s right, from Shanghai, £50 more. Thus it turned to be London – Tokyo … Osaka – Auckland – Sydney – Auckland – Hong Kong … Shanghai – London for £1350 including insurance for flights and luggage, not bad considering the route.
We purchased our tickets on the phone with card payment, any other services that Travel Nation offered (like getting the visa) are available to do online. They offered a whole range of expensive tour sets from relax to adventure, although as a poor students we didn’t agree for them, besides it’s not about getting everything ready by them. We decided however for one thing – campervan in Australia. In New Zealand we have been blessed with my companion’s uncle living there, so he offered us accommodation and transport. About the campervan, we might have not done to well with that believing in cheap prices of the rental – £21 a day. But what else we could think of beside camping and hitch-hiking (without a tent and I would be rather scared living in a tent in Australia) – accommodation with transport in one, when we want to go from Sydney to Melbourne and back, visit as many national parks as we can, hug koalas, box with kangaroos and kill wild spiders and snakes with machete – rather good option with that campervan. In the end the rental of the campervan was the cost of £660 for 12 days (to divide between us both, so £320 each) plus petrol of course. Initially it was meant to be £300 for rental for 12 days, however I found out that in our rental agreement we need to pay additionally plenty of fees and taxes and horrendously high deposit of £1600 – more then our ticket for the whole trip, deposit refundable of course, but we would not have those money anyway. We have been told about the inclusive rate, so the cost of the rental raises to £500 but all the fees and taxes are included and deposit is decreased to refundable £60. Although, we need to pay additional £160 fr renting a campervan for less than 21 days and it is unfortunately non-refundable. Well, twice as much as we thought but we still can do this, I hope.
The time has come to figure out what do we do with the transport in Japan and China. In China we assumed to visit Beijing and Shanghai from which we fly back to the UK. Thanks to an awesome website of a nice train-traveller(http://www.seat61.com/) I got to know everything I need about train connections in both those countries. Train from Hong Kong to Beijing which goes every second day (only 24 hours ride) with a hard-sleeper option is the cheapest option and cost about 85$ however, depends where the booking is made. Train from Beijing to Shanghai which goes everyday with a hard-sleeper option costs about 75$ and with just a normal seat 45$. Considering that China is a big country and those cities are located on the very edges of it the price seems to be not that bad. Although, Japan does not look as good. I have been told that the best option for travelling in Japan is buying a Japan Rail Pass that allows you for unlimited travelling in a particular period of time by particular trains. That ticket costs £186 for 7 days, £297 for 2 weeks and £380 for 21 days – what the hell are those prices? When I summed up all our potential train rides over 10 days separately it would cost us about £200 including transfers from and to the airports. Well in that case there is hitch-hiking and walking left. That will be funny especially cause Japanese are rather not familiar with hitch-hiking. As well as with couchsurfing (website / project that allows you to find a person in any place in the world that could host you or the opposite) – after a couple of weeks of seaching for a host I was left with mostly no response, majority of refused and one maybe. Well in Tokyo we wanted to try capsule hotels anyway, and hopefully there will appear a nice couchsurfer in Kyoto who could host us.
Apart from all the basic things like tickets and transport. Hostels – in China rather cheap, like bed in 4-6 persons dorm in the city centre for about £6. In case of Japan it’s similar to the UK – cheapest accommodation in Tokyo I have found is £15 for a night and rather far away form the centre. Food we will hopefully find, buy, eat, if not there is always the option of grilled insects a’la Bear Grylls and piss as a drink. Insurance is I guess definitely advised, apart from our insurance included in the ticket for flights and luggage I purchased Euro26 card with SPORT insurance for a year time covering the whole world apart from USA and Canada and covering sports like snowboarding, snorkelling, diving and stuff, as if I would come up with the idea of bungee jumping somewhere on the way. Apart from that additional insurance for that particular period of time on the trip with a bit higher financial limits offered by my bank for about £45. Clinics in the pre-summer period encourage vaccinations. After checking the requirements about the vaccinations in each of the countries I decided to vaccine myself too. In New Zealand and Australia there is almost no risk of any serious disease (only yellow fever occurring in the north of Australia). In Japan it is advised to be vaccinated for Japanese encephalitis however, in Poland (where I was vaccinating myself) that vaccine is not popular and you would need to order it especially and it takes too long to apply the vaccination (a couple of dozes in period of a couple of months to take). Chine is though a completely different case. There is plenty of diseases from hepatitis A, B through tuberculosis, polio, typhoid to bird’s flu. I decided to vaccine myself only for the typhoid – cause I guess with their water and food that might be rather easy to get ill for, and hepatitis A as I hope that I am still immune for the B type. Apparently in the cities there is not much risk of getting a serious disease. From the other hand I started doing any vaccinations about 2 months before departure so after taking two vaccinations in the same time I have been told not to take any more for the next two weeks. The problem is that most of the vaccines are not disposable, most of them you need to take 2-4 times in the period of a couple of months, the two that I have taken have been in only one doze (hepatitis A in two but the second one to be done after 9 months). So if you are going for trekking to the Chinese rural areas start vaccinating one year before the trip :). Both of the vaccinations costed me about £30 each (in Poland).
Another pre-departure duty is to get visas. Considering countries that we are going to visit we needed only two – Australian and Chinese. Japan and New Zealand are in the international convention agreed between quite a few countries, according to which you do not require a visa for the tourist visits up to 3 months if you are the citizen of one of the countries included in the convention (Poland and UK are included). Australian visa was included in the cost of our ticket as an electronic visa and its cost is £15. It was a bit more ridiculous with the Chinese visa. The Travel Nation agency offered the possibility of getting the visa through them but for £105. I have checked then what are the prices in Chinese embassies and consulates in Poland – in the normal procedure (about 4 working days) £45. And here goes the funny bit. While being at home in Poland in Gdansk (there is a Chinese consulate) I wanted to drop a form and get a visa done however, they require more documents then embassies and agencies normally do, like hotel bookings, phone numbers, invitations and stuff apart from just passport and flight ticket. The first problem was a wrong day to come. So Chinese working days mean Monday, Wednesday and Friday… While I wanted to apply on Tuesday a day before my flight back to the UK (unfortunately the next Wednesday was Chinese bank holiday anyway). Nevertheless I tried again being in Poland another time, this time on a proper day however, my for has been rejected anyway. It was because my flight ticket is to Kong Kong, not the actual China. I was a bit afraid of that although it shouldn’t matter as normally in such cases people do get visas to China. I had a train chosen but I could not have bought the ticket yet because it was too early but it did not help unfortunately. It turned out that it’s not only me having problems with getting a visa because of such a ridiculous reasons. When I left the consulate I have been offered help with getting a visa by a girl who has given me a card and told me where to find that address in the city. I was pretty sure I am going to consult with a travel agency or something although, somehow I got to a Chinese restaurant. Very nice Mr Consul came up with the idea of having an agreement with the owner of the restaurant (Chinese of course) who is getting previously rejected clients a visa without any problem but with paying extra money for that (and of course without giving any confirmation of the payment) and somehow following normal working days not the Chinese ones. For example for the normal visa you would need to pay extra £30, for express one £50 and for the superexpress for the next day of the application £70. In the end cost of my visa was about £75.
I am sitting now a couple of days before departure and trying to think of what is else to buy or do. Aid kit complete – basic things like bandages, plasters, antiseptic spray, painkillers, anti diarrhoea pills, vitamin B1 (apparently works like mosquito repellent). Head torches bought, additional batteries to the camera as well. Only some snacks and light food left to buy and some emergency phone numbers to write down and collect all the important documents and that should be fine.